DASH Commuting Report - 1 Month & 600 miles (long post)

Pace

Member
Well, one month in, I'd figure I'd give my thoughts on the E3 Dash for those who are eying it as a commuter. For my very first impressions of the bike (what I thought when I was shopping around for bikes), see this thread: http://electricbikereview.com/community/threads/dash-vs-the-other-bikes-i-tried.866/

Prior to getting the Dash I would ride daily mixed mode (tern d8 folding bike + commuter train) or a few times a month I would ride all the way in on a carbon road bike (Giant Defy Advanced) which is a great bike but not well suited for commuting (no rack, no fenders, etc)

My mission parameters for the Dash:
  1. 40+ miles round trip
  2. Load up with rack, panniers, fenders, lights, toolkit, change of clothes, lunch, etc. I use a Mission Works backpack for my laptop to keep it from bouncing around in the panniers. Total gear ~25lbs, maybe 30. I'm around 175.
  3. Ride 4 days per week (I work from home 1 day each week)
  4. No loafing, I still pedal hard, still need to shower at work, just eased off a bit compared to taking my road bike.
  5. Each 20 mile leg of my commute consists of 12 miles of fast roads/paths, and 8 miles of slow city roads in and around Boston (bad pavement, heavy traffic, many lights)
Some Stats so far:
  • 15 days of commuting in the past 4 week, ~609 miles
  • Average time:
    • Inbound and outbound are close to the same: around 1hr 6 min riding time + 13min stopped time (intersections, lights), so around 1:19 total
    • Average speed: 18.5 mph (excludes stopped time)
  • Best time: Inbound 59:22 ride time (20.31mph) , Outbound 55:08 ride time (21.55mph)
  • Number of times I've been asked "What's in the box?" (i.e. the battery): 5
  • Money saved to date: $255 (my commute on the train was $17 per day). The Dash could pay for itself in a year.
  • Typical battery usage: 60-80% each way (20 miles). I've done it on as little as 40% with PAS1 only, and as much as 96% with liberal usage of PAS 3 & 4. I recharge both at work & home (I got two chargers).
Equipment problems:
  • For the first couple of days, power would cut out on me every now and then, and on the third day I lost it such that I could not get any assist past 14-15mph for my inbound and outbound commutes. After some diagnostics, I determined it was a badly adjusted brake lever (there's a set screw that controls the return) which was triggering the motor cutoff.
  • The as-delivered wheel builds were crap. Both front and rear rims were out of true, rear worse than the front. By day four I had a dozen spokes that would need retightening. Both disk rotors were also out of true, the rear I might even just consider 'bent'. So normally a I can handle a bit of wheel tweaking, but I considered this a bit out of my league, so I had a local shop (not where I bought the dash from) true up the wheels and brake rotors for about $60. I lost two days of commuting to this
  • Seat post quick release is kind of junky, it's too loose when open and makes it a pain to fine tune the seat height, plus you really have to crank that sucker to keep it tight enough not to have the seat slip
Things I don't like:
  • Shimano disk brakes are a bit mushy. Maybe it's still the cable stretch, though by now I think I'd have them stretched. I know they aren't hydraulic and I don't expect that same feel, but I've got mechanical Avid BB7's on another bike and I think they are better. The stopping power is fine, I'm just not in love with the feel.
  • Computer display backlighting is way too bright. It auto-detects the ambient light to go on automatically, which is a nice feature. However, now that I've been riding more during night time hours (and much of that is on unlit bike paths), I've found the display brightness to be a problems. I estimate it kills 25% or more of my night vision (judged by comparison to holding my hand over the display to block it out) just by being in my peripheral vision. It's worse if I temporarily try to read it for the battery gauge. I started taping over the display at night for now, I have to figure something else out for this.
  • Pedal assist feel/responsiveness is mediocre. I knew this based on my test rides, but it was one of tradeoffs of cost vs performance vs other bikes. The power delivery is not always smooth, it sort of pulses in and out while you are pedaling. With constant firm pedaling, this is less noticeable. At times it inexplicably seems to provide extra 'resistance' while pedaling while still delivering power (hard to explain). It has both cadence and torque sensors, but I feel like it is too sensitive to the cadence and not enough to the torque. As an example, when coasting to a stop I'll often lightly pedal (no real pressure applied) so that I can downshift and move the derailleur -- if you do that on the dash, the motor will kick in and accelerate you unless you apply brakes.
  • No water bottle mount.
Minor quibbles:
  • Standard handle bars are like most current MTB -- they are fairly wide (maybe 25in?, I didn't measure). For the majority of riding this is fine, but for a commuting bike that goes through traffic narrower would be better. I'm looking at some other handlebar options (see below)
  • Tires are huge, heavy, but at least they are road tires and not knobbies. I'm not sure if I'll have the patience to wear these out before putting on a good set of tires.
  • Somewhat cramped riding position (e.g. upright). It's not as bad as a cruiser. But I got the large frame size when by the book I should have gotten the small/medium. The larger frame has slightly longer wheelbase and longer top tube length so I got a better stretch and I preferred the riding position.
  • handlebar is crowded w/ computer, levers, throttle, shifter etc and the wiring is very tight, so it's hard to reposition things to make room for a light, bell etc.
The good stuff:
  • Eats carbon for breakfast. Inbound early in the morning, the first part of my commute is mostly paths and a lot of the riders I'll see are roadie/fitness riders until I get closer to the city and start seeing more commuters. I ride mostly PAS1, but cruise 22+. There are very few strong riders that I have a hard time catching, and I've done some 'motor-pacing' for some folks on several mornings (The draft off of me in a somewhat upright position, with backpack & panniers must be huge). Only one has caught me after I passed them -- it was a woman that was trying to chase me down for 4-5 miles after I went by her. I didn't know she was back there (looking back at my GPS, I was averaging 26 through that section) until we came to the intersection where I leave the trail. She couldn't believe how quick I was the the MTB, but then was relieved when I told her about the assist :)
  • Nice drivetrain: the derailleur and shifter are not high end, but they work really well, and are very smooth. The micro shifter lets you drop the whole cassette in one thumb push if you want which helps in the city when you are coming to stops often
  • Completely quiet.
  • Bike handles well. You won't forget it's a heavy bike, but it is well composed at speed, tracks nicely and does not have twitchy steering. For a speed-commuting bike these are all great attributes. There are some times in traffic I find myself wishing for a bit more maneuverability, but would not trade that for how it is set up.
  • Has proper mounting holes for racks, fenders. The chain stays are not super long, but I don't have any issues with pannier heel strike (size 10 1/2 shoes).
  • Suspension & 700c wheels helps with our local road impurities. The front fork is pretty basic, but it does the job. I leave it open most of the time, I don't lock it out that often. Because it's rarely necessary to stand and really pump hard on the Dash, fork bobbing is generally not a big problem.
  • Has fulfilled it's mission for me so far. I used to ride in all the way to work 2-3 times a month, now I can do it every day and not be totally wiped.

Wish list:
  • The computer/display is very basic. I'm fine with that in terms of modes/operation, but it would be great to be able to pull the telemetry off to a smartphone app over bluetooth or ANT+.
  • Better wiring routing in the bottom bracket area (rubber cover and exposed wires could be better)
  • More fine tuned control of PAS levels and assist curve, and having to cycle through T-1-2-3-4 modes in order kind of sucks (I think the new dash's fix that part)
  • Regenerative braking -- but it should be set up to work off the brakes.
  • More battery capacity. It's 48V*8.8Ah = 422wh. For my 20mi inbound/outbound legs, it means I'm constrained by battery. I ride mostly PAS1 and judiciously in 2-3. If I've got just a mile or two on the way home and a a couple of bars, I'll throw it to 4 to speed home. But the Dash is a fast bike, and for a 20 mile ride it does not have enough juice to reach it's full potential. If my commute was 10 miles each way, I could use it's maximum performance. But if it was 10 miles each way, I'd be riding a regular bike.
  • Better aerodynamic position. It's weird to have this big honking 29er style bike w/ panniers and then say that, but when you spend so much time above 20mph, this is a real consideration. I'm thinking of swapping out my handlebars for a jones loop bar ((Link Removed - No Longer Exists)) to get an aero position. In PAS1, getting down in a tuck will add 2mph with no additional pedal effort.
Compared to other modes of commute:
So now I've got five basic options for getting in to work, here's how they compare:
  • Car all the way in: Just not a realistic option, I've done this less than a dozen times in three years, the traffic SUCKS and parking is expensive in Boston. But, if I did it at rush hour, it would take me 1 1/2 hours each way at best, and can easily take 2+. If I left my house at 3 in the morning, it's probably 45 minutes.
  • Car to subway station (25-35 min), subway to downtown (40min), walk to work (5min). So inbound this can be as little as 1h 10min in theory, but it's rarely that fast. Typical is 1hr 25min. Outbound at rush hour is much slower because the waits for the subway are longer and traffic at the parking garage, so going home is more like 1h 40min or more. Cost = $11 for parking, $4 for subway, whatever gas and wear & tear is for 25 miles of driving (figure another $5-6).
  • Train mixed mode: Folding bike 3 miles to train + 45-50min train ride + 2.5 miles folding bike to work. I have to add in a little extra buffer to make sure I'm early enough for the train. This is pretty consistent inbound and outbound at around 1hr 20min. Cost = $17 each way.
  • Road bike to work. My best time inbound was 1hr 13 with 13min of stopped time, so 1:26 total. Generally though, I'd say 1:35 was more typical. Outbound was slower, my best time was 1:17 with 15min of stopped time (1:32 total), but average was more like 1:45.
  • Dash to work. Inbound and outbound are actually very similar. On average it's been about 1h 6 min of ride time and 13min of stopped time, so 1:19 each way. For those of you keeping track to this point, it's now my fastest option, just beating out the mixed mode train commute.
Overall:
I'm pretty happy with the Dash -- I think it had the best price/performance ratio even though I rode some other bikes that I think were better. As a frequent cyclist, I was skeptical about this ebike thing and honestly a little embarrassed when I started looking at them, but the experience of the past month has really been a great one. For a lot of people these kinds of bikes are going to really expand the envelope of what can be considered a viable bike commute. I liked riding the folding bike and getting work done on the train, but it was not enough exercise for me and with more than 2 1/2 hours of daily commuting time, I don't have much extra free time. So the Dash let me switch to an outdoor ride every day with no time penalty, and a huge increase in exercise time. I can still take the train when it's pouring all day or once the snow is here, but aside from that I'm looking forward to the new commute routine.

Ride Data:
Here's data from one of my recent outbound rides that was on the faster side. First chart is a mile-by-mile split, followed by the speed/elevation chart for the ride. Since this was outbound, miles 1-2 is in Boston, 2-6 is in cambridge/somerville, 6-8 is Arlington... those are all varying levels of city roads. Miles 8-17 are on the minuteman commuter bikeway trail, and 17 thru 20 are suburban roads. I don't totally trust the 'fastest speed' values as they are recorded by an app using an iphone gps and I've seen some suspect numbers, but I think on this ride they seem close to correct. Ascent/Descent data is also a bit iffy, but not too bad. The average times should be dead on. After this ride I had around 11% of batter remaining.


 
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Brian(J)

Active Member
Pace
That is one fantastic review, and I agree with most or all of your comments. For example I am swapping to the Avid BB7 brakes and I have the Jones H Bar, but to cure issues I was have with wrists and shoulders. Be aware that the brake sensor wires will be tight and have to be released from the triangular wire organizer. You can buy a sensor wire kit from Currie that was designed for the Peak and is longer but they want $130 for it so I'm planning on cutting/extending mine when I work up the courage. Also the brake cables will be too short and need to be replaced along with the shift cable- I am having Jagwire installed as I write this. I cut about 3/4" off each side of the H Bars to reduce the width a bit.
Your complaint about getting a power surge when spinning the pedals to downshift while stopping- I just pull a tiny amount of brake, enough to kill the power but no enough to get the pads to the disk.
For screen brightness you might rig up a cover using Roscoe or Lee theatre gel that reduces light called Neutral Density Film. 2' x 2' is about $6 amazon, eBay, or at a theatre supply shop. Comes 25% and 50% light blocking.
 

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
RE: Display backlight, I ended up putting two layers (one fold) of CTO gel over my display, held with electrical tape, much nicer at night. A huge sheet of it was only like $8, part of my photography endeavors. I also mount my NightRider 750 upside down for the same reason, local light pollution. One night I spotted a fellow e-bike just from the glow of the display on his face. ND films and filters are often rated in 1/3 stop, 1/2 stop etc. Maybe there is something in the trash or recycling bins that would work just as well, a red tint would be comando. -S
 

Pace

Member
good idea on the gels guys. That made me remember I've got a roll of amber gel filter sheets, I'll see how that works out.

Brian thanks for the info on the jones bar conversion. I was eyeballing the wiring setup and figured it might require some splicing to change out the handle bar. Maybe something for the winter if I decide to switch out the bars. I've got some aerobar clip-ons too but I just can't bring myself to mount them on the dash, it's too ridiculous.
 

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
I'm also looking at the Jones H bar, aluminum per Pace's suggestion. Here is a scale layover of the H bar & Dash. The H bar photo is a little asymmetrical so this is probably a close approximation. Width in mm X 2 = pixel space. I was not sure about the swept back handles, may just try a hoop aero bar, however ridiculous. Cheers, -S

Dash_HndlBars_Compare_2Jones_H_small_6701.jpg
 

Brambor

Well-Known Member
Yeah. ,Really cool review and kudo's to your commute. you're da man! what tire are you putting on for December, january, february, march?
 

Pace

Member
I don't know how far I'll take it into the winter. I'm ok w/ the cold, I think I've got, or can get, gear for that, but I will probably call it quits once they start needing to salt the roads heavily unless there's lulls between snow and the roads are really dry -- it's a lot of wear and tear on the bike mechanicals and I don't have a good feel yet for how things like the battery contacts and wiring would hold up to that. I've pretty much ruled out Jan & Feb, the other months depends on the snow.

If I was only on the city roads, I think I could get away with the same tires (I rode the folding bike through December last year), but the bike trail that I use now is very shaded and will get icy, especially in the mornings. Although it does get plowed after snow, they don't use salt on it. So I figure if I could get something like the Schwalbe Winter, or another one from here: http://www.peterwhitecycles.com.
 

wwjd

Member
Pedal assist feel/responsiveness is mediocre. I knew this based on my test rides, but it was one of tradeoffs of cost vs performance vs other bikes. The power delivery is not always smooth, it sort of pulses in and out while you are pedaling. With constant firm pedaling, this is less noticeable. At times it inexplicably seems to provide extra 'resistance' while pedaling while still delivering power (hard to explain).

Pace, I am glad (somewhat) that you mentioned you were experiencing sometimes pulsating (almost like a surging of the power) in and out while pedaling, and also "resistance" while yet the pedal assist is still delivering power. I thought that this was another problem that was only peculiar to my bike. Has anyone else been experiencing these little quirks? Resistance while pedaling is not what we've asked for in a pedal assist model. We get a enough of that when we don't pedal and the normal "cogging" effect begins to take place. I definitely never get this resistance when only in throttle mode.
 

Brian(J)

Active Member
I get that as well.


Pace, I am glad (somewhat) that you mentioned you were experiencing sometimes pulsating (almost like a surging of the power) in and out while pedaling, and also "resistance" while yet the pedal assist is still delivering power. I thought that this was another problem that was only peculiar to my bike. Has anyone else been experiencing these little quirks? Resistance while pedaling is not what we've asked for in a pedal assist model. We get a enough of that when we don't pedal and the normal "cogging" effect begins to take place. I definitely never get this resistance when only in throttle mode.
s
 

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
I get this sometimes (two flavors), usually when pedaling is inconsistent due to traffic or obstacles, but don't confuse no power for cogging. If you were to manually enter PAS zero (single power button depress) in that same high (I suspect) gear you would (if you have not already) experience what a beast you are riding and just how much force it takes to get or keep her rolling.

The second flavor of this intermittent power issue was a result of the brake circuit opening, addressed by strain relieving the harness just in front of the display. I think it is also possible to trip the brake just with unusual hand positions (tucks) as there is quite a bit of play in the handle. -S
 

wwjd

Member
I agree with you, Shea, that it is not the "beast" I am riding when in PAS zero. The "force" that it takes to pedal in that mode is much more noticeable. I will think more about the traffic and/or obstacles when riding to see if that has anything to do with this. I too have thought about maybe my pedaling being inconsistent and also having something to do with this. I will experiment some more with these ideas to see how it all goes. Maybe it is just as Pace said, that these bikes are "too sensitive to the cadence and not enough to the torque."
 

Shea N Encinitas

Active Member
Maybe it is just as Pace said, that these bikes are "too sensitive to the cadence and not enough to the torque."

So true, maybe the cadence sensors with more sampling points are the beginning of better designs, Court has pointed out a few variations. Would be nice to tweak the parameters, set precedence et all, especially if there was a nice UI, like a drag and drop scene graph, wiring of parameters and metrics on your computer that you send to the controller.

I can also imagine a sine wave graph of motor power with a layover of your current pedaling, the idea being you could get some feedback on your cadence VS the motor's sweet spots, matching harmonics is you will. BTW pedaling faster, in a lower gear should effectively increase sampling and in theory smooth out motor controller response. -S
 

Trail Cruiser

Well-Known Member
I'm also looking at the Jones H bar, aluminum per Pace's suggestion. Here is a scale layover of the H bar & Dash. The H bar photo is a little asymmetrical so this is probably a close approximation. Width in mm X 2 = pixel space. I was not sure about the swept back handles, may just try a hoop aero bar, however ridiculous. Cheers, -S

View attachment 1718

After spending some time with my ebike, I find the handle bar to be good for control but not for comfort esp on long bumpy roads. Putting load to the upper limbs caused aches and pains to my wrist, elbow, shoulder joints. I figured if I can put all the weight to the butt on body float seat post (alternate with feet loading by standing) I would solve the problem. I got the jones cut H bar
http://www.jonesbikes.com/h-bar-jones-cut-710-aluminum/
and put aero extension for high speed cruise.
Adding a very short stem
https://www.amazon.com/Bicycle-Cycling-Handlebar-Degree-31-8mm/dp/B00QK0N36W
made the whole steup into an all-position-handle bar where you can sit full upright or assume full aero and anywhere in between.
h bar.jpg
 
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Trevor Hayes

New Member
Pace said:
More battery capacity. It's 48V*8.8Ah = 422wh. For my 20mi inbound/outbound legs, it means I'm constrained by battery.

My commute is very similar to yours (20 miles) and I ended up buying a 2nd battery on the theory that I'll need to buy another battery eventually either way. I stop after 10 miles and swap them out. After about 8000 miles I'm getting to the point where I run out of battery before 10 miles is up if I keep it in PAS4... although that's also partially due to the cold weather. I may need new batteries next year before too much longer though (yikes).

As for the pulsing power output I got that a lot for the first few thousand miles but lately it hasn't been a problem. I have no idea what changed.

My chief complaint is how fast it goes through brake pads. I have to adjust them every other week and replace them every 6 months or so and I make a special effort not to brake any more than absolutely necessary. Since I've had it for 2 years I guess that's about every 2000 miles. I know it's heavier than my other bikes so maybe this is expected it just seems fast to me.
 

Trail Cruiser

Well-Known Member
snow dash 1.jpg
I am now about 800+ miles on my 2015 Izip Dash. The fenders did a very good job of keeping my shoes dry. The bike trail was so slippery that I had to turn back after 10 miles. Some of the surfaces were completely white and I have to inch my way with both toes to the ground and feather the throttle.
 
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